Conceptualised by: Prof. Anjali Monteiro and Prof. KP Jayasankar
Research Associate: Reetika Revathy Subramanian and Shraddha Sharma
Web Admin and Development: Ashwin Nag
System Administrator: Ramu Nakerikanti, Computer Centre, Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Header Image: KP Jayasankar, from the film Saacha: The Loom
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The construction sector is of great importance to the Indian economy, contributing 7.7% to the country’s GDP, with a total size of Rs 10,640.68 billion in 2015-16. It is one of India’s fastest growing sectors too, with a growth rate of 10.3% in the decade between 2000–01 and 2010–11. Construction is also the third largest employer outside agriculture, employing a workforce of 46 million. According to Census 2001, there were about 14.6 million construction workers (not including brick kiln workers), of which 30.4% of male construction workers (3.9 million) and 60.4% of female construction workers (1 million) were migrants. It is also imperative to note that a majority of the inter-state rural-urban migrant construction workers are concentrated in and around large metropolitan districts like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Chandigarh or Kolkata.
Furthermore, both migrants and non-migrants in the construction sector are largely informally employed, with about 90% of migrants in rural areas and 67% in urban areas working as casual wage labourers. Migrant construction workers are mainly unskilled seasonal migrants who work as wage labourers in the agrarian sector. Building and construction workers thus face multiple vulnerabilities due to their socio-economic profile, migrant status, and informality of employment. In response to these vulnerabilities and recognizing the size of the workforce, a policy framework for ensuring social welfare for construction workers and preventing their exploitation was devised in the form of the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996. More than two decades after the BOCW Act, 1996 came into force, the efficacy of this framework remains in question. The rate of overall implementation of the act is tardy. There are several structural impediments to the implementation of the Act, like registration delays, the authorities’ inability in producing the 90 days’ employment certificate required for the registration etc.
The four of us, from four different socio-cultural backgrounds, had some idea of the city, its people and migration in general before we started working on this film but it changed as we got the opportunity to dig deeper and come face to face with them for the first time.
After interacting with Adwaita, we decided to have a preliminary discussion with Yuva. After that meeting, we wanted to explore the idea of migration in the new space of Navi Mumbai, created as in extension of the metropolis of Mumbai. We had seen nakas and construction workers before and for the first time, we had the opportunity to look into their lives and engage with migration in that aspect.
We realized that the nakas and the situation of migrant workers in Mumbai had replicated itself completely in this new city that was conceived in 1970s. The construction boom in the new city was also resulting in creation of new such nakas, many of them operational for over 35 years. Not only did we notice that declining level of work and labour opportunities and increasing number of workers had resulted in increasing precarity and posing challenges to survival of a large number of migrant workers and their families.
In this journey, we also came across the phenomenon of re-migration of a particular community and how their historical socio-economic location has put them on the periphery of not only the physical city but also its imagination. This film did not cover all the aspects of migration and the problems of the concerned communities, but it was an honest attempt to look for the gaps between the policy and ground-level implementation and our approach was solution-based.
The ever-increasing population in Mumbai led city planners and policymakers to create Navi Mumbai as a counter magnet to Greater Mumbai. The city was planned to be a center for a formal service sector economy, while ignoring a large section of the population that works in the informal sector, including street vendors. They are then forced to occupy public spaces and pavements ‘illegitimately’.
The Street Vendors Act 2014 recognizes street vending as a legal occupation. While the law was originally intended to protect hawkers by providing licenses, the final bill was diluted in a way that makes it difficult to obtain licenses. Instead, regularisation becomes a process of keeping a check on hawkers and deeming their existence and livelihood illegal. The law requires Town Vending Committees to be formed, in order to carry out the implementation of the Act, with at least 40 % representation of street vendors on the committee. However, this has not been realized so far.
Adding to the feeble implementation of the Act, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation repeatedly seizes goods from street vendors and evicts them from informal market spaces that are labeled ‘No Hawking Zones’. While city planners have allocated spaces for wholesale markets at Vashi and Panvel, they have failed to adequately accommodate street vendors. The allocated market spaces are insufficient in number, and even these few are located in areas that are not favorable. This makes most parts of the city other than these poorly planned vending zones a ‘No Hawking Zone’.
Over the past few years, the vendors at Konkan Bhavan market have been facing repeated displacement. They were earlier forced to move from outside the Konkan Bhavan gate to its Parking lot. They have now set up their market under the Belapur flyover, but are in danger of losing this space as well, since it has been marked by the NMMC to be made into a park. Not having a safe, stable and viable market space only adds on to their struggles as migrants in the city
In August of 2018, we then got in touch with YUVA, who introduced us to the Hawkers situated near Konkan Bhawan in Belapur, Navi Mumbai. The market is vibrant space that we then started exploring. As we started to get familiar with the space and the people its inhabitants we found out about the issues they were facing as hawkers in a planned city like Navi Mumbai. We decided to work with migrant hawkers and the issues they face owing to their dual marginalization, at the level of their occupation and social location. We then met Sunita, Meera, and Dinesh, who let us in on the struggles went through when they first moved into the city, issues they continue to tackle as migrants, and those they face as hawkers. This film is our attempt to weave together migration stories of Sunita, Meera and Dinesh along with the trials of the vendors at Konkan Bhawan Market. We hope these stories of resilience strike a chord with you.
In August 9, 2018, at 2.45pm, an explosion shattered the windows of the SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority) residential buildings in Mahul. The explosion occurred in a part of the BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited) refinery, which is only one of the many refineries that are as close as 50m from the residential complexes of the SRA. The film would like to use this event as a point of insertion to explore the grossly hazardous living conditions of the residents who have been “resettled” and “rehabilitated” from various parts of Mumbai due to the pipeline projects. The injustice committed against the residents of the SRA colonies does not end at being displaced very far away from their source of livelihood, education, and health support systems, but is exacerbated by the fact that they have been moved to an area which would otherwise be inhabitable.
The precarity of the residents operate on multiple levels, a lot of which stem from the proximity of the buildings to these refineries. The health issues faced by the residents are many; including but not limited to stomach and skin infections, respiratory issues, low immunity and even cancer. From our conversations, another issue that was raised was the resurfacing of dormant health concerns that people have faced within a few months of moving to Mahul, triggered by the inhospitable environment. Moreover, the recent fire is just a prelude to what are the many threats that residents continue to face.
Even though National Green Tribunal (NGT) declared the area inhabitable in 2015, and also asked the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to define a buffer zone between the industrial and residential areas, this has still not been defined. The residents want to be moved from Mahul and want a permanent solution to the continued violations of their basic rights. As a part of the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, a rally was organised by the residents of Mahul and others affected by the various pipeline projects (which as the displaced communities argue, should have been underground enabling them to return to their homes) in June 2018 to demand better rehabilitation. The protest continues today. The film will attempt to explore the various complexities of rehabilitation and the rights of migrants in Mahul.
During our visits to the area, we were able to talk to people participating in the protest. We talked to Anita Dhole and BR Verma who have been constantly a part of the movement, and who we intend to make central figures within the narrative of the film. Issues of cleanliness and hygiene were also brought forward by the people who we talked to, and the site was evidence for the complacency of the authorities about the living conditions of the people, motivating the residents to believe that they have exiled to die.
Building no. 29 from where the refineries can be seen very clearly. The multiple refineries, one of which had a blast on August 9 2018. They are barely a 30-40 meters away from where the buildings start.
Hygiene conditions are quite poor. Residents even complained that sometimes there is a layer of oil in the water that they get:
The first few buildings that were made were reserved for the police forces in the area. However, the buildings remain empty because they refused to live in an area which is so inhabitable. But BMC has no qualms about shifting more and more people from demolished settlements across Mumbai to these buildings.
The film is one of five films produced by the School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, that engages with internal migration in Mumbai. The film was conceived following an incident that occurred on the afternoon of August 8 this year. A fire broke out following the explosion of a boiler in the Bharat Petroleum refinery at Mahul which left 43 individuals injured. We ourselves heard the blast from the institute, which is located 6 km away from Mahul.
A few days later, we read a news article about a protest by residents of a government rehabilitation project situated next to the refinery. We spoke to the residents there and saw the conditions under which they were forced to live. Many preferred the slums they were displaced from to the flats allotted to them by the government. They spoke at length about the afflictions they had developed as a result of the poor sanitation in the buildings and their proximity to the refinery. The health concerns seemed to be their main concern as was their need to be relocated as soon as possible. It is for this reason that we chose health as our film’s underlying theme, with the overarching theme being migration.
A natural turn in the road, somewhere in Kurla, is joined by a narrow inconspicuous road. If one were to go down this road, one would find that there is music of its own here: along both sides of the road, there are small workshops with heavy machines like lathes, drills, boring machines, each making its own beat adding layers to the rhythm of the street. This little known area is of enormous importance to the working of the city of Mumbai: making large things like x-ray machines for airports, to small things like polishing cutlery moulds, to recycling the cities plastic and electrical waste. Here, sitting on machines, heaving heavy weights, segregating plastic, ripping electrical devices into components, most workers are labourers from the North of India (mostly Bihar and Uttar Pradesh region), having left their villages in search for stable income. The factories that are run here are mostly unlicensed. Big brands subcontract certain processes of manufacturing here because unlicensed means below minimum wage salary, no safety regulations, no health regulations, and therefore cheaper costs.
Films play an interesting role in migration. In showing the city they build a myth, in their story arc not only can they express a romantic image of migration from the village to the city, but they also have the ability to narrate peoples’ stories to themselves. Mumbai as shown in films, the city of dreams—mayanagari, is a myth. The sprawling bungalows, towering scrapers, waves rolling into clean sand, people laughing over champagne in luxurious halls is a facade; and behind the facade is the gritty truth about Mumbai. A city too fast to wait for anyone, hiding its true compatriots in its dirty back alleys and slums. A city scarce of water, sanitation and housing. Mumbai is a myth built by cinema, the myth continues to be built on and the mythical city continues to attract people from different parts of India. Can Mumbai still be loved?
Cinema both alters our reality and at the same time becomes an escape from the reality. It lies somewhere between the dream-world and the real world, living inside our minds and yet outside, projecting itself onto daily lives just as the projector illuminates the white screen with meaning.
The quintessential Bhojpuri film has often had the same trope when it comes to the stories they narrate. One often finds the protagonist venturing out of his village in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh, either by choice or due to unavoidable circumstances only to arrive in Mumbai. Once in Mumbai they go on to fulfil their aspirations and having achieved success, they return to their village.
The films reflect the collective aspirations of migrants as they move to Mumbai- ‘the city of dreams’ in hopes of a better and secure future. It is in this ‘Mayanagari’ where their dreams take shape and finally materialise. The city offers numerous job opportunities, a place to live to the countless migrants; and as the films have suggested, an opportunity to fulfil their aspirations.
When we started to make the film- ‘Bhojpuri Bambaiwale’, we wanted to explore the contrast that exists between reality and the myth constructed by cinema, and while many of the migrants end up living in Mumbai for the rest of their lives, the city is not exactly what they expected it to be when they imagined it through these films. We also decided to look at the different views that people have on these films, and how deeply ingrained cinema is in their lives. For some, it is a way of keeping their culture alive while living in Mumbai whereas for some it is reminiscent of what they have left back home. We hope that through this film, we have offered a glimpse into the lives of the migrants and an understanding of how movies/films play the role of an entertainment source in their lives, adding colour to the grim realities of life’s mundane routine.
The location is Tata Nagar. It is situated near Belapur Railway Station. The people have been living there for over two decades. The residents comprise of Marathi speakers, who have migrated from various parts of Maharashtra. It was primarily a Dalit community. The major occupation there is in labour sector.
The aim of the film is to understand the politics of eviction in this area and who gets characterised as ‘migrants’. The main focus will be on the everyday struggles of the residents in this area. Mumbai has always been considered a city of dreams. It is the place where people come and hope to succeed. However, there is a darker side to this. There is politics involved in this – who gets to be a “citizen” and who gets characterised as a “migrant”. This film will be a step to understand the term “migrant” and all its connotations. We hope it will further the debate in a positive direction.
The first trip was one to YUVA centre. There we got a basic history of Navi Mumbai’s planning and development along with CIDCO’s activities. The members talked to us about the various temporary settlements in the area and the eviction they face. On the second recce, we visited three of these settlements – Jai Durgamata Nagar, Tata Nagar and Anand Nagar. All three places face eviction threats in different political contexts. For example, these differences come out on comparing Jai Durgamata Nagar and Tata Nagar. The first is on forest land and hence the role of the Police is starkly reduced. It is overseen by Forest officials. As a result, evictions occur once or twice in six months. On the other hand, Tata Nagar is situated near a local station, and with a metro construction nearby. Moreover, CIDCO is planning to construct a public library. Hence, they face eviction far more frequently- once or twice a month.
Aashiyana, a film by Kavya, Medhavi, Megh, Prgya and Vivekina explores the dynamics migration and eviction in Navi Mumbai. Drawing upon experiences of the residents, the film looks to connect many threads concerning the issue of migration and eviction. Why did we decide to make the film? We ourselves are migrants who have come from different parts of the country to Mumbai. Although there is a popularised notion of Mumbai being the ‘factory which manufactures dreams’, the city treats different sections of the society very differently. We decided to make a film on migration because we believed it would help us understand the issue much more deeply than we already did. We understand the limitation of the film in truly being unable to achieve much for the residents of Tata Nagar but we hope that it will start a conversation on ” Who is a part of Mumbai?”
School of Media and Cultural Studies
Tata Institute of Social Sciences,
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Deonar, Mumbai – 400 088
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